The relative binding position of Nck and Grb2 adaptors impacts actin-based motility of Vaccinia virusMore about Open Access at the Crick
Phosphotyrosine (pTyr) motifs in unstructured polypeptides orchestrate important cellular processes by engaging SH2-containing adaptors to assemble complex signalling networks. The concept of phase separation has recently changed our appreciation of multivalent networks, however, the role of pTyr motif positioning in their function remains to be explored. We have now investigated this parameter in the operation of the signalling cascade driving actin-based motility and spread of Vaccinia virus. This network involves two pTyr motifs in the viral protein A36 that recruit the adaptors Nck and Grb2 upstream of N-WASP and Arp2/3 complex-mediated actin polymerization. Manipulating the position of pTyr motifs in A36 and the unrelated p14 from Orthoreovirus, we find that only specific spatial arrangements of Nck and Grb2 binding sites result in robust N-WASP recruitment, Arp2/3 complex driven actin polymerization and viral spread. This suggests that the relative position of pTyr adaptor binding sites is optimised for signal output. This finding may explain why the relative positions of pTyr motifs are frequently conserved in proteins from widely different species. It also has important implications for regulation of physiological networks, including those undergoing phase transitions.